What started as differences of opinion among Botswana Democratic Party youth in the Francistown West constituency have allegedly escalated into open hostility ahead of this weekend National Youth Congress in Masunga.
So bad is the situation that, according to reports, a one day constituency congress last weekend at the regional office in Francistown to choose the new youth constituency committee as well as delegates to the Masunga congress, degenerated into a round of quarrels and even threats to kill. Falling short of a boxing contest, several of those who were disgruntled trooped out of the meeting to go and hold a parallel meeting elsewhere. Nor do they accept the decisions of the meeting they walked out of. The disgruntled have reportedly written a letter to the regional committee praying that the whole process of electing the constituency youth committee and delegates to Masunga be nullified.
According to a source who prefers anonymity for discussing party matters without authorisation, matters came to a head when the preferred candidates of one of the factions, allegedly led by among others, Lechedzani Mudenga, Gaethuse Ramolotsana and Raoboy Mpuang, lost the elections. According to the same source, the complaints surrounded claims by some who alleged that, the area Member of Parliament, Ignatius Moswaane had become such a busybody in the constituency that he always sought to have things done his way. “He is always interfering. Even on Saturday he influenced the elections,” alleged the source. Besides, there are allegations that, contrary to BDP regulations, people were allowed to vote without producing their membership cards. One of those who were allegedly involved in the quarrels is councillor for Tatitown ward, Ramolotsana.
“I never quarrelled with anybody but had an argument with Baboni Mosalagae who had tried to protect those accused of interference,” he said. When asked whether he agreed with those who accused the MP of interference, he answered in the affirmative. “Mr Moswaane should trust us because we have got no intention of taking his constituency. It appears he has this feeling of insecurity which I think makes him want to install his puppets in the party structures in the constituency,” said Ramolotsana who, by virtue of being a councillor, attended the youth congress last Saturday as an ex-officio member. Reached for comment, Baboni Mosalagae denied that she ever had an angry exchange with Ramolotsana. “He and I are friends and we always joke together. He is a reserved man with whom it is difficult to quarrel,” she said.
Asked about the credibility of the elections in the light of allegations of irregularities, Mosalagae said, “There were no irregularities. People just do not like losing. It is unfortunate that some people buy votes and get really angry when they lose,” added the councillor for Monarch south who is also an ex-officio member of party structures in the constituency. For his part, Moswaane denied that he desires to control everything in the constituency. “I never want to comment on party matters but on my mandate as an MP. My mandate is to ensure that the people of Francistown west are properly represented with respect to development,” said the MP. By him, there are no problems in Francistown west but people are trying to cause problems there. “I have even refused to campaign for individuals because I want unity in the constituency. I always tell people never to vote along factional lines.
I have got no intention of controlling structures. My belief is that people must choose their own candidates freely,” said Moswaane. Like Mosalagae, he blames money for peoples’ inability to accept unfavourable results in an election. When contacted, the secretary of the Francistown region, Moses Serumola confirmed receipt of the said letter. He explained that the petitioners were not happy with certain processes and the elections of both the constituency committee and delegates to Masunga but would not explain further.
President Ian Khama’s grand plan to annihilate the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) by recruiting its key members is boomeranging back to haunt the ruling party, the Botswana Guardian has learnt.The move, according to sources, is rekindling the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) factions, which were now becoming a thing of the past.
BMD - an offspring of the ruling party - was formed in 2010 mainly due to differences between the Barata-Phathi faction and President Ian Khama. The former accused Khama of autocracy and BDP of lacking inner party democracy. Years later, Khama seems to have softened his stance on former members of the party. He has said they are welcome back to the BDP. The latter has now made great efforts in recruiting into its fold leading members of the BMD.
But not all in the ruling party are happy about this move as sources disclose that not all BMD members rejoining the BDP are entirely welcome. This publication understands that attempts by Khama to root out factions were showing signs of bearing fruit until he started recruiting BMD founders back to the ruling party. “He is making a mistake by recruiting his former political enemies and bitter rivals in the form of BMD founders back into the BDP fold,” said a BDP insider who sympathises with the A-team faction.
Some BDP members, who spoke to this publication, are concerned about the resurfacing of factions within the BDP, especially with the recent recruitments of former Barata-Phathi leaders and BMD founders. They note that what President Khama sees as a good strategy to destroy the BMD is akin to planting a time bomb that will most likely explode during or after the upcoming Bulela Ditswe BDP primary elections.
“BMD was never a threat to the BDP and it does not make any political sense to start recruiting people who were directly responsible for the destabilisation of the party a few years ago,” argues one. Reports indicate that Khama is at the forefront of the recruitment drive that is targeting BMD members, including having MP Tawana Moremi back to the party. This is part of his strategy to make the BMD irrelevant.
This has raised concerns within A-team members, who feel that Khama’s continued chewing of fat with his “political enemies and bitter rivals” is strengthening the Barata-Phathi faction. Khama is now said to be closer to former BMD founders such as Guma Moyo. “He (Khama) wants Moyo to be the next BDP chairman,” said a source.
Moyo is likely to face either Jacob Nkate or Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi for the position. But one senior BDP official said he was not aware of the perception that BMD members who are rejoining the party are the ones rekindling the factions. He observed that when the primary elections season approaches, it “brings out the ugly in everyone.”
Sources say the Barata-Phathi faction, which has lately been silenced is now regrouping and aiming to reclaim the party in 2013. “They (Barata-Phathi) are eyeing the 2013 BDP elective congress,” said another source. Also the recent call by the BDP leadership that all those who wish to contest the forth-coming primary elections in 2013 for both parliamentary and council seats to submit expressions of interest has fuelled the rise of factions.
“This is because BDP members were told that those who want to contest but are holding positions in the party at the regions should resign their positions, now the regions are electing new members along factional lines,” an insider noted. Some BDP members apparently want to use the regional positions to gain support from the general members and resign from the positions in January next year. “That is when they will submit expressions to contest.”
This past weekend the BDP Gaborone Region held a congress where a new BDP regional committee was voted in and as it turned out, the Barata-Phathi faction of the BDP won all the seats on offer. Former youth wing president Bontsi Monare – associated with Barata-Phathi faction – beat his challenger Lesedi Dintwe of the rival A-Team faction. But there are those within the BDP who argue that Monare is neither Barata-Phathi nor A-team.
“He is still playing his cards close to the chest because we understand that he is interested in contesting for the primary elections for Gaborone Central or the Village ward council seat,” said an insider. Most regions are expected to elect new members and now the BDP central committee is concerned. A central committee meeting held last Monday has apparently instructed that where possible regions should compromise and co-opt for positions on offer.
Following the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2010 by people who had either resigned from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or expelled from it because of “indiscipline”, the situation became so fluid in the ruling party that the question “who is leaving the BDP next?,” became pertinent.
So serious became the situation that members simply could not trust each other. The BDP leadership, led by President Ian Khama, had no choice but to address “star rallies” in strategic constituencies in an attempt to stem the tide. One of the most memorable of these public rallies was in the Tsamaya Ward in 2010.
This meeting was held apparently to both dissuade BDP members in the Tati East constituency from following in the footsteps of the area MP, Guma Moyo, who was among the founder members of the BMD and assure everybody that the party was still “intact.”
By invitation to the podium, constituency and ward officials including councillors assured the general membership and the president who was in the company of cabinet ministers and party officials that they remained loyal to the ruling party despite media reports of resignations from it in other parts of the country. Among those who declared their undying commitment to the party at the Tsamaya rally was Reginald Mudongo who nevertheless tendered his resignation from the party in favour of the BMD only a few days later.
At one point, with the most MPs, the BMD was the leader of opposition parties in parliament. The party had scores of councillors and a total of nine MPs, eight of whom came from the BDP. The BMD also attracted hundreds of members from the other opposition parties, causing anxiety in the opposition ranks.
The euphoria about “the Orange Revolution” was however short-lived, as the return of Philip Makgalemele and Patrick Masimolole cast aspersions on the viability of the project as it was viewed by many as a vote of no confidence on the party by the two MPs. The credibility of the BMD would suffer another setback when Moyo, and later Sydney Pilane and Kabo Morwaeng dumped it. The party had to employ a lot of resources on damage control when some members of its youth league resigned citing lack of inner party democracy as their reason.
After the return of Botsalo Ntuane to the BDP in June this year, the BMD leadership assured the nation that there would be no more high profile members leaving the party. The recent departure of Odirile Motlhale, a founder member of the party and the MP who also doubled as deputy treasurer, contradicts this claim. His departure could also mean that the party is faced with a situation where members cannot trust each other.
Motlhale cites personal and family commitments as the main reason for his departure. After Ntuane’s resignation, Motlhale, in response to enquiries about his political future said, “Some of us have certain convictions that made us join the BMD and they will remain.”
In his resignation letter Motlhale proffers a disclaimer that he would not be joining any party. The “independent MP” game is not new. When Moyo left the BMD in October 2011, he not only declared he would not be seeking membership of any party, but claimed he would not be available for re-election in the 2014 general elections. In less than five months, the Tati East legislature had done what everybody else, except himself, had known all along.
He joined the BDP! Besides, indications are that he is contesting the next general elections.Similarly, Morwaeng said he was not joining any party when he left the BMD but was welcome back into the BDP within a few days of the claim. To his credit Ntuane never played the “independent MP” antic.
Pilane has thus far stuck to his “independent” status which he announced when he left the BMD months back.Of greater significance and rather unusual is the fact that, with the exception of the youth league members led by Armstrong Dikgafela, BMD defectors, unlike those for instance, of the BDP, BNF, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), almost invariably get out of their way to exonerate the party from any blame regarding their decamping.
It is expected of politicians to tear their old home apart on their way to a new one. True to form when they formed or joined the BMD, defectors tarred the BDP, describing it as corrupt and undemocratic. The unusual trait could mean that the concerned people are men and women of honour.It could also mean that the defectors did not return to the BDP on the basis of any principle.
Says the secretary general of the BMD Wynter Mmolotsi, ”They need to be careful because anything about the BMD being the reason for defecting back to the BDP would be malicious and a cover up. Their return has nothing to do with the party or even politics in general. Their return has a lot to do with their personal interests,”
The secretary general’s position tallies with views that the returnees have been bribed and have to be careful because an attack of the BMD by them would attract retaliation from the party which would be too happy to see their erstwhile comrades’ skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.
Mmolotsi is happy that even the defectors have enough conscience to exonerate his party. Asked whether he intends to leave the BMD, he says, “I can assure you that nothing has changed for the better in the BDP. In fact, things are worse. For me, the struggle continues until final victory.Only those driven by personal interest or have given up on solving the plethora of problems bedeviling this nation can think of going back to the ruling party.”
Tawana Moremi, who has been silent for some time amid allegations that he and Khama have reconciled and he might be rejoining the ruling party, was not available for comment by press time, as his phone was off air.